Is there anything thatI can do about an assistant who is an independent contractor from stealing my clients?

UPDATED: Aug 2, 2011

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Is there anything thatI can do about an assistant who is an independent contractor from stealing my clients?

I am a pet sitter in NYC and when my schedule is full I give dogs to walk to one or two assistants. I didn’t make them sign any contract, but I agreed with them that whenever I would give them a dog to walk, they would get 70% of the fee paid by the client. One assistant has been working with me like that for months and last week he told me he would take a few or my clients and walk the dogs on his own, keep all the money, and set up his own pet sitting business. I’m worried that he will steal more clients like that. I didn’t make him sign a non-compete agreement. What can I do?

Asked on August 2, 2011 New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You *may* be able to bring a legal action against him for theft of business information--your client list--and seek an order preventing him from soliciting your clients, but this is, frankly, not likely to work if the assistant did not sign non-competition, non-solicitation, and/or confidentiality agreements. That is, to establish that someone cannot compete, or solicit, or even use your client list for him/herself, you generally need to  establish some legal basis for that by having the person execute an agreement to that effect. While you may wish to discuss this matter in more depth with an attorney (many will provide a free initiail consultation), it may well be that you could spend a fair amount of money pursing a cause of action taht will ultimately fail.

You may need to absorb this loss for now, but in the future, *always* have assistants sign non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality/non-disclosure (e.g. will not use your client list or other business information for own benefit) purposes.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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